Avery Island Seeks Rebound in Withers Stakes

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

February 1st, 2018

Races with small fields are generally seen as less competitive than races with large fields, but the $250,000 Withers Stakes (gr. III) on Saturday at Aqueduct is a notable exception.

Although the nine-furlong race has drawn just six starters, it’s difficult to toss anyone from  consideration and no outcome would be particularly surprising.

The 8-5 favorite on the morning line is #4 Avery Island, a son of Street Sense trained by Kiaran McLaughlin. Avery Island signaled his potential when he broke his maiden going 8.5 furlongs at Belmont Park against a tough field that included the next-out maiden winners High North and Biblical, after which he jumped up into graded stakes company and posted a nearly gate-to-wire win in the one-mile Nashua Stakes (gr. II) at Aqueduct.

Based on these efforts, Avery Island was favored to win the December 2nd Remsen Stakes (gr. II) over the same track and distance as the Withers. Unfortunately, Avery Island wasn’t quite quick enough to secure the lead and wound up getting boxed in behind horses, which compromised his chances and prevented him from matching the winning move of the victorious Catholic Boy, who circled the field on the outside and was well in front by the time Avery Island found racing room. However, Avery Island stayed on gamely in the homestretch and actually ran the final furlong in :13.13, a solid time for a two-year-old running nine furlongs over the slow track at Aqueduct.

I would view Avery Island as a clear choice to win if not for the presence of #1 Firenze Fire, who won the Champagne Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont last year over an excellent field that included the future graded stakes winners Good Magic and Enticed. You can make a case that Firenze Fire might prove best as a one-turn miler—two of his stakes wins have come under those circumstances and his pedigree leans toward shorter distances—but it’s hard to knock the way he overcame a slow pace over an exhausting muddy track to win the Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct last month with a 104 BRIS Late Pace figure.

I also respect the chances of #2 Marconi. With two previous runs over this track and distance, stamina isn’t a question mark for this colt, who overcame a poor start to win a December 15th maiden race at Aqueduct by 5 ½ lengths. Marconi seems like a work in progress, but if he takes a step forward in his third career start, he should be in the mix.

Since the field is small and I’m expecting a predictable outcome, let’s try to make a profit by playing Avery Island on top of a superfecta:

$1.00 superfecta: 4 with 1,2 with 1,2,3,5 with 1,2,3,5 ($12) $1.00 superfecta: 4 with 1,2,3,5 with 1,2 with 1,2,3,5 ($12)

Good luck!